June 22, 2024

A non-medical practitioner was found guilty of tattooing eyebrows in a public participation trial. The medical community hailed the decision, saying, “Tattooing is a medical practice.”

Four out of seven jurors returned a guilty verdict in the first jury trial ever for tattooing by a non-medical practitioner. The jury saw tattooing as a medical practice; if performed by a non-medical practitioner, it is an unlicensed medical practice.

On Tuesday, a non-medical practitioner who performed eyebrow tattooing was convicted in a jury trial. The medical community welcomed the decision. (Credit: Getty Images)
On Tuesday, a non-medical practitioner who performed eyebrow tattooing was convicted in a jury trial. The medical community welcomed the decision. (Credit: Getty Images)

On Tuesday, the Daegu District Court sentenced a non-medical practitioner who has been performing eyebrow tattooing procedures in Daegu since September 2020 to one year in prison, suspended for two years, and fined 1 million won ($738) based on the jury’s verdict.

The unlicensed tattooist wanted a jury trial, but the verdict was not what he expected. After more than an hour of discussion, most jurors (four out of seven) found the person guilty. However, they agreed that it was necessary to amend the relevant laws and regulations so that tattooing, including semi-permanent makeup, could be legalized through a tattoo artist qualification system.

The court noted that the person earned 50.74 million won from eyebrow tattooing over two years and four months, violating the Public Health Management Act, the Medical Service Act, and the Special Act on Cracking Down on Health Crimes, and being “engaged in medical practice for profit despite not being a medical professional.”

“Cosmetologists are prohibited from performing mole removal, earlobe piercing, double eyelid surgery, tattooing, dermabrasion, and other similar medical practices,” the court said. “Eyebrow tattooing constitutes a ‘medical practice’ that may cause harm to human life, body, or public health if not performed by a medical professional, and is also a ‘tattoo’ prohibited by the Public Health Management Act.”

The court continued, “Eyebrow tattooing involves a direct invasion of the body, and the dye or anesthetic cream injected or applied to the skin in the eyebrow area must be clearly understood by the practitioner, and the possible side effects must be explained to the client. If this cannot be done properly, great health and hygiene harm may occur.”

Medical community welcomes ruling, saying, ‘Tattooing is a medical practice.’

The Korean Dermatological Association and the Association of Korean Dermatologists welcomed the ruling.

“Under the current law, tattooing, including semi-permanent makeup, by unqualified persons violates medical law. Tattooing is an invasive medical procedure, and it is illegal for an unqualified person to practice medicine,” the two organizations said in a statement welcoming the court’s ruling. “We strongly oppose any legislation allowing tattooing that includes semi-permanent makeup.”

The joint statement continued, “Tattooing, including semi-permanent makeup, is an invasive practice that involves the insertion of a foreign object into the skin through numerous needle punctures.”

There are numerous reports of bacterial and viral infections, including AIDS, syphilis, and hepatitis. In addition, many side effects have been reported, including granulomas, scarring, dermatitis, and pigmentation, they noted, stressing that tattooing (semi-permanent makeup) should be classified as a medical procedure and should be performed by a medical practitioner.

They also emphasized the dangers of tattooing.

“Various carcinogens have been detected in the dyes used for tattooing, and cases of skin cancer have been reported, so it is necessary to manage and supervise their safety,” they said. “It should not be overlooked that removing them after tattooing is also difficult and expensive.”



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